Verizon CEO hints no iPhone for 2011

I'm so glad I live in the UK where I can pick up an iPhone from pretty much every carrier, meaning I can choose to use the one who offers me the best coverage and data connectivity for the areas I'm likely to visit, rather than sticking with one approved offer.

I feel for the plight of my US readers who face a stark choice between an iPhone on patchy old AT&T or some breed of hopefully upgradeable Android-powered phone, or some boring old Blackberry, or some other phone-that-isn't-an-iPhone. (Fine, if you don't want an iPhone).

We've been reading the reports for what feels like forever now.

First of all AT&T gets the exclusive to a chorus of groans, then fairly swiftly we see complaints about its network coverage appear. These complaints emerge regularly, and form some kind of weird dance, with customer complaints dancing cheek by jowl with AT&T service upgrades. A foxtrot of FUD. That unhappy couple who still speak but don't really get along.

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This is probably why most estimates figure that around one-third of AT&T's iPhone customers would switch to Verizon in a flash, that's if they weren't so locked-in to lengthy contracts.

While we all knew the original deal between Apple and AT&T granted an exclusivity window to the carrier (likely five years) this exclusivity is now damaging to Apple's mobile industry position.Arguably the market momentum behind Android devices in the US isn't just about Android or the iPhone at all, but about freedom of carrier choice.

It would be nice to see what the market share between iOS and Android would be if both devices were available via every US carrier. At present its a flawed comparison.

There's a huge pent-up demand in America for the iPhone on carriers other than AT&T.

That's why reports Apple will have three million CDMA iPhones manufactured for the beginning of next year had everyone excited. Perhaps we'll see the iPhone on Verizon soon? Or at least Sprint?

And then Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg has to confuse everybody, telling attendees at an investor conference yesterday that he hopes Apple will allow Verizon to sell the phone for a new network it's building.

That's the "4G" network which Verizon hasn't launched yet, and which it isn't going to open next year.

Verizon has previously said it would like to offer the iPhone. And there's lots of US users who would like an iPhone, if it wasn't on AT&T. It makes business sense, so long as Apple and Verizon can figure out a deal.

Seidenberg is expected to speak at CES in 2011. Many anticipate this will see the announcement of an iPhone for Verizon.

However, Verizon's recent move to launch its own App Store for BlackBerry and Android shows the kind of discussions which may have stymied introduction of the Apple device on the network. Verizon may want a bit of the App Store for itself. And why would Apple, or its developers, want to hand over a chunk for this?

At this time we have plenty of rumor and speculation, but it is possible both Apple and Verizon -- and AT&T, come to that -- owe customers a little transparency. We all understand mobile is a cut throat business, but give people a break.

The question is: Is the iPhone coming to Verizon, and when?

An attempt at a pastiche on Apple PR speak follows:

The answer we're most likely to see right now is:

"The iPhone is currently delighting millions of customers on the AT&T network. Apple has made no announcement regarding introduction of the iPhone to other US networks."

The answer we want to see is something like:

"Millions of customers have already been enjoying iPhone on AT&T. Apple is delighted to confirm that millions more customers can look forward to using the iPhone on the Verizon (?) and Sprint (?) networks starting XXX."

Surely after all this time a little open communication about the multi-carrier future of the iPhone is something US users can reasonably hope for from US communication networks?

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